Kandinsky at Dawn

Kandinsky at Dawn

The sky has come down
to lie on the grass.
A low sun looks on
in wonder, sidelong.

Pale-blue intersecting
ice-kingdoms extend.
Someone has patterned
the lawn with diamonds.

Sapphire worlds flash.
Criss-crossed figures
coincident heiroglyphs
interlink, dazzle.

‘Everything comes too late’
say those who see nothing.
Concealed from them
the crystalline fields.

Luminous geometries
blue-green tartans of frost
snowclouds, tropospheres
carpeting at dawn.

Loomings of paradise
lapidary-work, last night
laid across the countryside
the frosted-over land.

An Armoured Inkwell

An Armoured Inkwell

One night from the bureau you took
a small metallic object, placed it, green
in the light of the standard lamp.

Strangely it sat on the dining-table
like an oversize matchbox made of steel.
Slowly you hinged back the armoured lid.

As if you opened a casket of sealed time
into the dark room came the Western Front
all that nightmare of what men did

When old Germany, the most civilized, died
when fairs on English Downs were pulled up
and trenches filled the French countryside

When Sacre prophesied the Great War
its dissonance the anger of the guns
its Chosen One a generation damned.

Out of that bombproof inkwell came poems
against the heroic values: Nie Wieder Krieg.
And for a faraway young bride

From black depths came love-letters penned
as dolphins turned, phosphorescent
in Flanders, at the mouth of the Yser.

‘My most precious possession’ you said
’yours now, since you’re a poet too.’
So came to me an armoured inkwell.

‘I shall not cease from mental fight.’
Often we chanted Blake’s mighty hymn
and I repeat it still by candlelight.

 

Written for The New English Ballet as part of the Armistice Centenary celebrations, the poem features in the film of a ballet called Remembrance, largely based on the wartime romance of Marie Rambert (my grandmother) and playwright Ashley Dukes (my grandfather). During his time as a cavalry officer in Normandy, he would use the inkwell (pictured above) to write letters to Rambert, who passed it on to me many years later.

Shackleton

Shackleton

An explorer lost
at the pole, searching
for the world’s axis
ship crushed in grinding ice
sees no morning
till a distant summer
raises the sun
from dark months.

Imagine
that returning light
as mystics decribe
warm rays shining
into separation
from a supernatural face
when the dead dream about
the angel of release.

Auroras flicker
round her head;
there’s a flame
in a frozen spine.
Earth no longer
revolves, silently
blue ghosts cast
fantastic shadows.

Oriental cities rise
up into the sky’s
overturned lifeboat.
A photograph
in the underworld
means everything
to men kept alive
in eternal night.

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